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our continuing coverage on the passing of nelson mandela. reverend? >> thank you, ed. and tonight, grief in south africa and america and around the world. for nelson mandela. one of the towering figures of this century and the last one. an inspiration for billions of people across the globe has passed away at the age of 95. tributes are pouring in from across the globe for this freedom fighter. this man of peace who helped free south africa from apartheid and inspired citizens of all nations. president obama spoke just moments ago. >> he achieved more than could be expected of any man. and today he's gone home. we've lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time
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with on this earth. he no longer belongs to us. he belongs to the ages. for now let us pause and give thanks for the fact that nelson mandela lived. a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice. may god bless his memory and keep him in peace. >> mandela spent nearly a third of his life as a prisoner of apartheid, but he never stopped believing in freedom for himself and his country. outside his home just moments ago, the people of south africa were singing. ♪
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>> we'll be going live to south africa in just a moment, but first i want to bring in nbc news contributor charlene hunter galt. she spent years covering both nelson mandela and the anti-apartheid movement in south africa. thank you for being on tonight. >> thank you very having me on, reverend al. >> you know, i know from being a teenager in new york and the civil rights struggle going forward you were one of the first writers at "new york times" that really wrote about this movement. and for people to really understand the weight and
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gravity of nelson mandela, they have to understand what it was that he fought. give people a sense of what apartheid in south africa was and then how nelson mandela and the african national congress was able to break this gridlock of oppression and move this nation toward liberation. >> well, reverend al, i first went to south africa in 1985 which was one of the darkest times in the country where the apartheid regime was just wreaking havoc on black people in all of their townships. you know, the black people were isolated. they lived in townships that could easily be surrounded by the white and black in that case arms of the state. and this was a time when people were being beaten. they were being executed in all kinds of extralegal ways that we only learned about many years
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ago. with all kinds of poisons that their scientists, one doctor was a heart specialist and he was creating things that would give people -- make people die if they smoked them or ate them, that sort of really heinous kind of approach to getting rid of the people in the liberation struggle. that was 1985. even i was approached by the police at one point and run out of the township where i was trying to tell the story of some of the women who have been severely beaten by the apartheid police because they thought they were part of the mandela movement. i went back in 1991 when nelson mandela was released and things were still a little bit shaky, but there was anticipation that things were going to change. and what needed to change was that you had a black majority
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who as we in the south in the '60s before the civil rights movement was triumphant, we, too, were second class citizens in our own country. that's what gave me even as a journalist, it gave me greater respect for the people who were fighting against that system. as a journalist, i had to be even handed and fair if not objective. and so i talked to the people in -- who were fighting the black people trying to keep them from becoming citizens. and they talked as our people did. that they were god's chosen people and that black people just weren't made to be first class citizens. so that was the fight that i covered throughout those years. >> so here we are where you have citizens that are black, who the majority of the country would no writes, anything could be done to them, no right to vote, no right to redress and out of this
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builds over decades the african national congress, there were other movements to the left of them. others that were to the right of them. but the tenacity of this movement led by nelson mandela who did 27 years in jail and transformed it into a democracy. i was there as an election observer in '94, and to see those people lined up as you did, having the first time in their life the right to vote. people were standing for miles. and of course the result was he became the president of the ruling party which became the president of the nation. but i don't think people understand this is not just the guy who became the first black president of south africa. they literally changed a nation where they'd been delegated to subhuman status to where they not only could vote but became the president of the nation in a relatively short period of time without any violence.
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>> well, you know, what i'd like to say about nelson mandela's leadership -- because i heard the earlier conversations about when he was in prison -- and even in prison he was still fighting for everything he believed in. while most of his party people were outside of the country, he began negotiations with the regime to end apartheid even as a prisoner. so even as a prisoner, he was leading the country. and taking the white minority to a place that he needed them to get to even while he was still behind bars. >> i mean, it's almost unimaginable for you to be a prisoner, emerge and negotiate with the powers of the government you're under, and to go back to your cell or quarters at night. and then to emerge with this hopeful message of reconciliation and purpose. let me show nelson mandela as he addressed the nation. >> today we are entering a new
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era for our country and its people. today we celebrate not the victory of a party, but a victory for all the people of south africa. >> he was always very measured, always one that resisted being bombastic and boisterous. not the victory of a party, but the victory of all in south africa. always trying to reconcile. and the times i was around him in private, you were certainly around him a lot more than i was, he always had this strange balance of humility and gravitas that you just didn't see in other people. >> yes. but at the same time, you know, what i think we tend to forget is that nelson mandela was a human being. he had all these wonderful traits, but i remember one time when i told him after i had
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interviewed f.w. de clerk, the former president of south africa who was about to hand over power, and i asked him what is it going to be like to give up power? he looked at me and said a liberation movement has never been able to govern. we'll be back in power in five years. and when i saw nelson mandela a few days later and told him what he said, that was the only time that i have ever seen nelson mandela really get angry. he said why, when i was a prisoner i was telling that man what to do. why, of course he's not going to be back in power. and then he became the gentle giant that we all know him to be. but he had that steely side of him that you didn't see often, but you saw it every now and then. >> now, what do you think? there's going to be all kinds of statements, accolades, analysis over the coming days and weeks.
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what do you think he would have wanted to be remembered as in history? what do you think he wanted his legacy to be? >> i think he would want people to be the best that they can be. i mean, to look at the kind of man he was and to emulate it but to do it in their own spaces. because that's what he tried to do. he tried to empower people, and that was where his humility came in, but also his leadership. as someone who embraced others. and so i just hope that the values that he embraced and transmitted are tran sen dant. i think that would make him happy in heaven. >> when he won the election i talked about witnessing and then
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he was inaugurated, at his in g inaugural address, he talked about healing and reconciliation. he did not talk about we finally got the land that is ours and what we deserve. he raised it to another level. let me show some of that and get your reaction as to what was going on at that time. >> the time for the healing of the wounds has come. that we shall build a society in which all south africans both black and white will be able to walk tall at peace with himself in the world. >> healing, reconciliation, why was that so important to him? >> because i think that there was a great fear when he black majority did come to power that the white minority especially the more violent ones would react violently, and so while
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there's been criticism about the approach that nelson mandela took, at the same time, i think he's credited with helping to avoid blood shed and a civil war by bringing in the people who were his very oppressors. and, you know, you can debate whether or not he gave away too much. but the point is that even though south africa today still has a long way to go to be the dream that mandela had for the country, there is very little blood shed of the kind that many thought would happen once a black majority came to power. >> now, there was -- and this is not often discussed -- but there was those to the left of him and those more nationalist than him that were constantly ataking him and constantly pushing him for more saying he gave away too much. how did he deal with that balance? you talked about de clerk. how did he deal with the attacks from some of whom should have
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been his own allies? >> well, he dealt with them with magnanimity. he had people he put in place to help him realize that dream. and i don't know what he did behind closed doors pl all though i'm told the nelson mandela we all see in public could be a different mandela when he was in negotiations. but he had that steely character that i think behind closed doors could come out a little more strongly than what you saw in public. because in the end what you saw were a group of people who marched with mandela instead of in front of him. and you didn't hear all that bickering and the kind of disenchantment today that you currently have with a young democracy, but he managed in his own way to speak behind closed doors when we had to speak forcefully, but always to put that conciliatory face before
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the public. >> now, we -- hold one minute. you're hearing singing and people that are celebrating the life of nelson mandela in south africa. it is 1:00 in the morning. it is after 1:00 a.m. in the morning in south africa, but people are gathering not only outside of his house, but all over south africa celebrating the life of this great man nelson mandela. as i said, i cannot put in words the impact that he had on the world and the kind of feeling you would have around him. wyatt walker who chaired my board, it was the first place he came in harlem. came and spoke at the church when he was freed. he always marvelled at the similarities in terms of being forgiving and reconciling that
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he had with dr. martin luther king. and that's a picture of reverend wyatt t. walker, nelson mandela, jesse jackson and i when he came to harlem the first time after he had returned to this country having been a prisoner. and to be in his presence to talk with him and then later we went to south africa as election observers. this mixture of humility, this mixture of greatness, it was very hard to describe how much it would impact you. and to have the leaders and lions of the civil rights movement that i grew up admiring and grew up finally and when i got old enough to work under in the northern part, to really applaud and defer to him was awesome. because in many ways the anc
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learned from the civil rights movement here, but the giants of the movement here really, really exalted what nelson mandela had done and what he represented. because he became, he personified the very change that he had come to represent universally. and it was reminiscent of the stories i heard from mrs. coretta scott king often about her husband, he late martin luther king. and joining me by phone, the former u.s. ambassador to the united nations and the former executive director of dr. king's sclc. thank you very being with us tonight. >> thank you very much and god bless you. and this is really, you know, for african folk and people of african descent, the going home
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is a celebration, it's not a sad time. and if there's anybody that can go home with a victory, it's nelson mandela. he was able to lead his people to triumph and hate. forgiveness in place of vengeance. and south africa is a democratic free market economy right now that's still struggling, but there's a spirit about that place that always gets you going. it's not just mandela. it's the people. and as much as he was the leader of that non-violent movement, he was also a product of strong, loving, caring people that wanted to live together as brothers rather than perish together as --
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>> well, what will be his legacy, ambassador? >> his legacy will be the same as the celebration we celebrate now at christmas. peace on earth and good will to all men, women, and children. and he signified that, he exemplified it in his life. he broke down racial and class barriers. he insisted on the highest values of human kind being shared with all of god's children. and he gave his life for it. you know, there were a lot of people from -- there was a big group from atlanta that. there were about 40 people who went there. i don't know whether you remember james orange -- >> yes, very well. >> james took a delegation of
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old movement people and they took two-way radios and they took computers and they computerized the voting rolls. we sent ship loads of clothing and medical equipment. and there was a real support of their movement by our movement. when dr. king won the nobel prize, the first statement he issued was issued with chief otuli who had won before him. and he was the founder of anc. and nelson mandela's predecessor. so our movements go way back, almost 75 years together. >> hold one minute, ambassador young. i'm going to ask you to hold one minute. thank you charlene, i'm going to let you go. and i'm going to hold ambassador young. because joining us live from right outside of mandela's house in johannesburg, south africa,
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is nbc's ruhit kutru who's outside of the mandela home in south africa. what can you tell us is going on outside? >> reporter: well, al, there is an incredible crowd here. a gathering of perhaps a hundred people of all ages of black and white. a true representation of south africa. one interesting observation is perhaps how young this crowd is. i would estimate two-thirds of people who are less than 25 years old. people who have no memory of the darkest days of apartheid. but such is mandela's legacy that he means exactly the same thing to the young teenagers who are gathering here with flames singing songs from the history
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boo books, songs from the struggle to older people that lived through pit it. in the last hour here, we've seen a string of police vehicles going into the house. and family members. >> -- kind of show us the crowd as you're describing this. is there a way for them to get a shot of this? >> reporter: yeah. al, we're doing that right now. and this is the scene. you know, you can perhaps make out in the distance there the south african flag. the flag of the rainbow nation. earlier they were singing the national anthem. all 12 languages of that national anthem. a real musical representation of multi-colored south africa. i mean, you know, it's very early in the morning here. people heard the news late at night.
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i was just listening to local radio, and the presenters there were saying they were deejaying in nightclubs with 21-year-olds, some of who were breaking down in tears when he cut the music and said that nelson mandela, the first president of modern south africa had died. that is the mood of this nation. you know, there's nothing shocking about a 95-year-old man with serious respiratory problems dying at this age. it was highly predictable, but it was painful nonetheless to hear this news in the last few hours for perhaps almost every south african. you know, predictable but painful. and perhaps this, the most mournful day in the history of modern south africa. >> what do you think will be the response of africans across the continent? because nelson mandela -- and
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i'm going to ask ambassador young this -- what he did and what his movement did also changed the entire continent and had ramifications all over the world. >> reporter: that is absolutely right. he's perhaps almost as loved in countries like kenya, west africa, even in north africa as well as much as he is here in south africa. but, you know, this is a global icon. there is perhaps no one like him anywhere else in the world. the most revered man in the world, perhaps. a figure who as you say, al, already mourned not only here in south africa but right across africa and right across the world. >> ambassador young, you worked a lot in africa and still do. give us a sense of what his impact to the entire continent was.
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all right. i think i've lost mr. young -- ambassador young. rohit, let me ask you. in terms of the president -- >> reporter: but the presenter was asking -- >> rohit, are you with me? yes, rohit. the president of the united states said that the first political engagement he ever had in life was involved in anti-apartheid demonstrations as a college student. that's the kind of impact he's had globally. and it is that generation that is now many of us in our 50s and older. but you're telling me there are people half our age and younger that are out there that are celebrating his life tonight. >> reporter: that's absolutely right, al. and one of the really
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fascinating things about the reaction which is in its first few hours, the reaction to nelson mandela's death is the youth. the youth of this response. this is an incredibly young country where the majority of people have no memory of apartheid. it is something from the history books. it is something that they learn about in school or from their parents, perhaps. but president obama put it incredibly well in that statement earlier. and he used one of nelson mandela's best known phrases when he said i fought against white domination and black domination to say this is not someone who was fighting just against the apartheid regime, but against racism right across the races. he said when he came to power as president in 1994 that he didn't want to push the white man into the sea. and perhaps in part for that reason, that is why he is so adored by people of all races.
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yes, an icon for black africans, an icon, too, in a different way perhaps for millions of white south africans too. although there is a great deal of criticism the way they've progressed, it is peaceful, it is democratic, and it is stable. and no one in 1994 predicted that. >> all right. well, we're going to have a lot more. thank you, rohit. and we're going to have a lot more on the breaking news of nelson mandela dead at the age of 95. including president obama's connection to him. stay with us. ♪ [ male announcer ] did you know
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i, nelson mandela, do hereby serve faithful to the srepublic to the south africa. >> that is the marquee at the apollo theater. the world famous harlem theater where everyone of note has gone and they have on the marquee in memory of nelson mandela 1928-2013. he changed the world. joining me now is chris
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matthews, host of "hardball." chris, let me first get your reaction to the death of this great world leader. >> well, reverend, i was so fortunate historically to be there in 1994 covering his election. the first democratic election in south africa that was brought about because of the anti-apartheid act put forth by good people. and that's one of the reasons they had democracy in south africa. i was very fortunate to be there and watch really something almost biblical where you can see people in an open field from one horizon literally to another horizon waiting in line to vote. these are many poor people without -- they didn't have a cup of coffee or anything or place to go to the bathroom. they just waited patiently, because that man we're looking at right now told them democracy was the way to go. not a military overthrow or something like that with a lot of killing and blood shed. you know, i was in the peace core back in the '60s. a lot of us thought it was going
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to eventually lead to that, a big race war, everybody getting killed. it was just a horrendous situation. and the deal he was able to strike with the clerk, they did it all quite normally and naturally and democratically. and he did that. he sold the people. who could have overrun the whites, i suppose, at one point on doing it democratically. he really was a soulful, great leader. >> you know what was amazing to me, i was also in south africa in '94. you there as a journalist, i was there as an activist who was an election observer. >> sure. >> and what was amazing to me is how nelson mandela in the anc was actually attacked by some of the forces on the left that wanted to be violent, and he refused to do it. he really taught many of us around the world that you had to become the change you sought. and he was able to pull it off.
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>> i think we're going to miss him. if there is a real tragedy here aside from apartheid and his 27 years in prison, of course, was he didn't get back out into freedom and leadership at a younger age. you know, he could have been more than he was even. he could have been a true george washington. he could have led that country to really good government. and unfortunately he could only be a symbolic leader. not so much a governing official. he didn't have that vibrancy he could have brought to the job in his 50s or 60s and led that country for 10 or 20 years. i'm still hopeful about that country, as you are reverend, that they can make it work and keep a non-racial society. dominated by black political leaders, but a country in which people can live together peacefully and productively. >> now, you interviewed him. which is much different than those of us who may have been
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around him a little while from time to time. or those who knew him well. as a journalist, give me your feeling of interviewing a man of this great historic proportion. >> well, this is so interesting because you know reverend, our position on south africa was not always so great. we had supporting the apartheid government down there. and then gradually in the '80s you had the democratic majority and the congress go over rag. they over-rode his veto and insists on these sanctions down there. but yet obama didn't say that. he didn't say your is country's had a mixed record. he said america was a great force, in fact the world's greatest force against apartheid which i thought was generous in his reading of history. of course he became great friends with clinton and carter because of their record of being
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against apartheid. i saw will smith in one of those pictures and harry bellefonte. there were enough of us and the people that were activists to give our country a good name in that country. we were lucky to make the change in the '80s. thanks again to the late bill grey. they took the lead. >> no doubt about it. ron delums, randall robinson. but i think people don't understand there were elements in this country that actually as late as the mid-80s was still calling nelson mandela and the anc terrorists. >> i know. >> yet he came out with a very forgiving spirit and rose above all of that. >> i think there's a lot of great leaders in south africa. we've lost some of them, of course. there's a lot of people down there that i'd love to see get back into government and really develop a really strong democratic tradition there. but you're right. there were people that, you know, pat buchanan and other
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people out there were saying they liked it the way it was, basically. who thought we could get there and try to make at least within a terrible system some basic rules. that made it less egregious. you know that was going on. so there was a lot of people trying to -- a liberal white south african didn't believe in sanctions. there was a lot of conflict about how it was the best. my personal view was grind it into the dust, there'll just be another basket case. we don't need that economically. but hit them hard with sanctions with a real punch so they'll be shock hadded by it and make a big historic decision. and they said this isn't going to last. we're going to turn it over to a black majority. we better get used to it fast. i think he deserved credit for that. >> president barack obama released -- came out and made a statement today at the white house. saying that his first political
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act was to participate in the anti-apartheid movement and what nelson mandela meant to him. but before nelson mandela's death was announced today, he spent over an hour with you and college students in a rare, unprecedented interview in town hall at american university. tell us about it. it's going to air after the show tonight. >> well, some of it was the usual kind of question you or i would put to him which is your concerns about government effectiveness, have you been able to keep prestige up there with the difficult rollout, how's your government management techniques going so far, is there still trust in government. the usual questions. but when he really came alive was when i asked him what about you and the pope. because the speech you gave yesterday on economic justice, mr. president, was so powerful and it was resonant of what the holy father has been saying in
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rome and dealing with people in poverty and getting out there and doing it and rubbing off the rough edges. when you see him, you'll say this is the first time he's really gotten that heart out there. he's kind of a distant fella, the president. he really showed some heart. howard fineman was there and he said afterwards, it was the first time he ever saw any president talk about personally what it's like to be president. in other words, taking the hits and the bats every day. it was kind of an interesting development when he turned to and maybe because he's into trouble with the polls right now, he's starting to feel very -- as i said about nelson mandela, a bit soulful about the situation he's in. he has to really fight for principle now. it's not going to be simple politics. >> do you get a sense that he is being combative or reflective? i mean, he's under a lot of attacks, a lot of pressure. did you leave with a sense of where his political gut is. >> you know him. he's not ferocious.
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he's not a guy who takes a punch at the other side very often. he pulls his punches. it's his style. but he did seem to be very reflective about the value fight that you're always engaged in. looking out for people that nobody else looks out for. and basically talking about the need for economic and social justice. he really sounded like a really committed, you know, community leader. you're going to hear him not as a politician but as a community leader and someone who really wants to lead the charge as best he can. given the fact he's up against this republican house of representatives that stands in his way so often. but he is personal tonight. you'll be amazed, because he is a very cool guy as we say. he's not cold. he's just cool. he doesn't talk about his feelings much, but he did today. and i think it's powerful to see it tonight. >> chris matthews, congratulations first of all on the interview and thank you for
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coming on and sharing with us tonight. and be sure you watch chris' interview with president obama on a special edition of "hardball" airing next at 7:00 p.m. eastern. and then again at 11:00 p.m. eastern right here on msnbc. tune in. stay with us. we'll have much, much more on the world's reaction to the death of nelson mandela. >> your struggle, your commitment, and your discipline has released me to stand before you today. the day we rescued riley was a truly amazing day. he was a matted mess in a small cage. so that was our first task, was getting him to wellness. without angie's list, i don't know if we could have found all the services we needed for our riley. from contractors and doctors to dog sitters and landscapers, you can find it all on angie's list. a
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he says quote, he made us realize we are our brother's keeper and that our brothers come in all colors. well, i will remember most about mr. mandela that his spirit could not be restrained by economic injustices, metal bars, or the burden of hate and revenge. he taught us forgiveness on a grand scale. he was a spirit born free destined to soar above the rainbows. statement by mohammed ali. i want to bring on nbc's ron allen. he covered nelson mandela's 1994 election, and he's been back to south africa five times since 2011. thank you for being with me tonight. you were there in '94. i was there as an observer, an activist. you as a journalist. i was in the city of
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johannesbu johannesburg. give people a sense. i understand the greatness of nelson mandela. you have to understand that moment. the african -- the black african had never been able to vote before in south africa. >> right. >> give us a sense of what it was like in durbin in the non-city areas. >> right. this was a very rural area and we were beyond the city. and there were polling places that were essentially huts. and it was a very misty, foggy morning. and i can remember seeing these huts and these lines that stretched for literally for miles. and people stood there for hours and hours to exercise this right. and though i often tell people out of all the things i've seen in my life traveling the world for many, many years now, this moment is something that i -- that always stays with me. it was just a powerful moment. it was just something that growing up and learning about south africa, you probably never would have thought would have happened. so many people were amazed that
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suddenly these people were going to vote. i moved to london in the early '90s. one of the things. of the '50s and '60s in america. you have this majority being oppressed in so many ways being o presed. and i watched a change now. and to some extent. but he lives on and in so many ways in south africa today. in a spiritual sense. he was in so many ways the conscience of the nation. he is in so many ways the standard by which every other leader and everything that happens there is judged. and it all goes back to those days in the early '90s when mandela was released from prison and making his mark on the country and again that moment that people were able to vote.
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a right people in this country take for granted. but there the turnout was very high as i recall. >> when you look at these photos, here are photos of the actual lines in 1994 that you and i saw personally there in south africa. and when you think of the fact that i talked to people, elderly ladies. i talked to a lady that was there in her late 80s who i said you can't stand here another day. she'd been there for the second day. she said we waited all our lives. we never were given the right to vote. this is 1994. now, again, we fight to maintain voting rights now with voter i.d. and all. they had no right at all to vote until 1994. >> i remember talking to people that couldn't read or write. they couldn't understand but they had learned enough to go and exercise their right on a
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ballot. for this to happen, such a profound thing. i'm not sure people understand that. because it's been awhile. we're coming up on the 20th anniversary in april of this moment. people are reflecting how far it's come. but it's important to know where it came from and where nelson mandela brought it from. >> in the pantheon of historical figures, where would mandela -- >> he has a unique position. it's just impossible to compare him to other people. because what he did with the help of others was so singular, so unique. and the way he did it the strength, the passion, the forgiveness, all those things. i had the pleasure of meeting him briefly during the campaign in the early 90s.
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and the thing i remember is how comfortable it was to be around him. he was somebody who did not seem to be what he was. he made his own bed every day. there were stories about him going to luxury hotels and housekeepers saying why did you make up your own bed. this is what he picked up in prison. he was a disciplined man. he was a purposeful man. people talk about in prison he was up every morning reading. he was about something and he told all the prisoners who came there, you have to be about something. you have to leave here a better person than you came in. and there was no doubt that they were leaving and that they were going to make a mark when they left. >> ron, stay with us. much more when we come back. ♪
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more now with our coverage of the death of nelson mandela. still with me is ron allen and joining us is jonathan alter, author and msnbc contributor, and james peterson, professor at lehigh university. jonathan, let me go to you first. you've covered president obama extensively. what kind of mandela influence do you see in him? >> huge influence. as he president said in his statement. he said he would not be who he was without nelson mandela. he followed him from an early age. you may recall when the president was a student at occidental college in california, he took part in anti-apartheid demonstrations. he was a leader on that issue and focused on it. but one of the things that is really striking me tonight is what can americans learn.
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and american society learn from the example of nelson mandela? i think back to civil rights movement, ghandi with his principle of civil disobedience, that helped to give the movement life. so what is mandela's message? well, today we're hearing even very conservative senators and other figures talking about the spirit of forgiveness that he embody embodied in south africa. my question tonight, rev, is can we import that spirit of forgiveness and apply it to the hundreds of thousands of people incarcerated who for the rest of their lives, you know, will be stigmatized by this. could we figure out a way to forgive them, maybe expunge some of those records.
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with three strikes and you're out, you have some people who have been there for so many years -- >> you're saying can we find ways in our memorializing mandela to actualize it. >> that's the key. >> and james peterson, what can the president be influenced by nelson mandela mean for us as a nation and us politicly? >> i love all the stuff you've been saying about nelson mandela and i love what jonathan alter just said. and i hope people can hear that, because if you want to really talk about how to use celebrate and commemorate the life of mandela, one of the things you can do is take his prison narrative, his narrative of being in prison for 27 years and remember he goes into prison as a terrorist. right? he is a terrorist in terms of how the south african government sees him. so in order for us to understand how do we import that spirit like jonathan is saying is you've got to take that narrative and think about what was his mentality when he came out? to embrace those who imprisoned
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him. to embrace those who oppressed and killed and maimed his people. that level of consensus building, that level of commitment to love and forgiveness is something that every nation, not just the united states, every nation can love and grow from. as for the president of these united states, one of the things president obama gets criticized for so much is he's too oriented towards compromise. he's too oriented towards consensus. if you think about what he borrows from nelson mandela, that is one of the ethics he borrows. sadly for most of the duration of president obama's term, most folk have not been able to appreciate that. maybe in this moment where we honor the life and legacy of nelson mandela, maybe people will see it more clearly. >> you know, ron, in the statement that james made and the challenge that jonathan made, it brings to mind that we kind of, like, in the span of
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time forget where we start with people. nelson mandela was ostracized and called a terrorist, and now the whole world is taking turns eulogizing, memorializing, and extolling him. the shame would be that it just be the personal victory for him, because clearly he earned that. but that he would want it to be a victory for what he stood for and not that you just went from calling him a terrorist to calling him the great statesman he became and will be always remembered as. but do what i say. emulate what i tried to teach. >> right. and understand this didn't happen miraculously. that he was an individual, a human being, a man who lived a life and made this happen. this didn't just happen miraculously. when i think about apartheid, i think how people were banned. and mandela was banned for a long time before he was even in prison. you couldn't be in a room with
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more than one or two people. your image couldn't be made public. and to live your life like that for so long as winnie mandela and so many other black south africans did and then to be put in prison. the story of his life is just unbelievable when you really dig into what it was like on a day-to-day basis and what he had to overcome to rise to that. >> excellent point. excellent point. ron, james, and jonathan, thank you all for your time tonight. and let me say that nelson mandela had a book come out after his autobiography "long walk to freedom." rick stangel put out a book of lessons mandela taught. he taught about reconciliation, he taught about what we need to do. and all that we hear in the coming days, let us try to hear mandela speak for mandela. and let us try to be a little more mandela-like.
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no, i don't think the president is right. we will not see another nelson mandela. it's not likely in our life time. but we can bring a little mandela in us and become better people in the spirit of nelson mandela. thanks for watching. i'm al sharpton. up next is a special edition of "hardball." an exclusive interview with president obama. tonight, we bring you to my interview with president barack obama. we present it against the backdrop of the passing of his personal hero nelson mandela. an event which msnbc will be covering for the rest of the evening. i have covered two great world events in my career. one was the fall of the berlin wall in 1989. the other was the first democratic election in south africa five years later. i was there when the country's black majority voted by the millions waiting in lines that stretched from one

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Politics Nation
MSNBC December 5, 2013 3:00pm-4:01pm PST

News/Business. The Rev. Al Sharpton discusses the day's important political and human interest stories. New.

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